Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fresh Peaches and Summer Sunflowers

I used to hate the long, hot dog days of August.  They seemed to drone on and on, smelling of acrid forest fires with no break in the monotony of the weather.  One of the things I love most about where we live are the four seasons, and it seems if we get stuck in one season for too long, I feel trapped with the boredom.
One of the amazing things that happens as we get older is that time does not drone on and on anymore - - it flits as quickly as a gnat being chased by a hungry hen.  As we move quickly through these days, it’s imperative to define what we love most and share in their simplicity.  Two of my favorite parts of summer show up in August . . . fresh peaches and summer sunflowers.  
Today, we went to the u-pick orchard, Sugar Plum Orchards, and picked 67 pounds of fat, juicy peaches.  My husband kept asking what I would make when I got home.  I said, “Nothing. . . I’m just gonna eat em.”  They are splendid. 
Throughout the summer, I’ve been watching a volunteer sunflower smack dab in the middle of my little plot at the community gardens.  It’s gorgeous and tall -- faithfully following the sun.  With its amber chin upturned, it protectively watches over my kale, broccoli, and tomatoes.
What makes you smile during the dog days of August? 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Off To The Fair

The second week of August brings the local County Fair.  This is the third year that I will cart my knitting off to be viewed by the public and the judges.  Putting my knitting out there for everyone to see makes me feel a little vulnerable, as if I were walking around the grocery store with my blouse unbuttoned. (True story – I couldn’t understand why everyone in the produce section had big grins on their faces as I trotted through the store that afternoon.)
So why do I do it?  Why do I put those knitted little pieces of my heart on display for all the world to see?  As a past 4-H and FFA member, it’s in my blood to support the local fair entry, but there’s a deeper reason.  I like to see what other fiber enthusiasts have been knitting throughout the year.  What color palettes did she choose?  What new techniques exited her?  Has anyone discovered the pure magic of felting?  I enjoy thinking about each person who submitted an entry, and how and why she chose the project(s) she did to exhibit.  What’s the story about each one and how did it find it’s way from yarn to garment?  What did the artistic knitter think about as the yarn worked through her fingers and needles?
The projects that came from my heart this year (clockwise from top left):

Ivy’s Championship Cardigan:  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post, "Knit with All Your Heart".  It was my first adventure into circular Fair Isle with steeks.  It was scary, but well worth every second.  The pattern is Anne Featonby’s Hibiscus Cardigan.  I substituted two colors:  the bright yellow and the bright pink -- for each I chose the brightest contrast to create more interest.  The purpose in finishing this sweater was to wear it when I showed my little Cairn in Alaska.  We were up against some stiff competition, but both of us felt very confident when we walked into the show ring.  Ivy accomplished her championship that morning with a 5 point major!

Alaskan Adventure Shawl:  I knitted this piece with two yarns – a beautiful fuzzy brown merino that is soft and luxurious.  I found it at a little knitting shop in Soldatna, AK, and Isager 2 Alpaca in a burnt orange.  The combination made a great auburn color that looks very striking over a black top.  The pattern is Evelyn Clark’s Swallowtail shawl.  It was part of Siskiyou Knitters 2010 Knit Along -- and yes, I conquered the nupps.  

Fingerless Twined Mitts:  These are the result of a class taken at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene OR, presented by the extraordinary, knowledgeable Beth Brown-Reinsel.  All I can say is twined knitting is tedious.  It produces a beautiful, springy fabric that feels close against the skin – not tight, but huggingly close.  I decided to enter these in the fair, because I’m sure the judges will have no idea what amount of work and time are involved.  I’m sure my mitts won’t bring home the glimpse of a ribbon, but I UNDERSTAND the neck-ache involved with twined knitting.  Although the outside appears to be conventional knitting, the inside reveals the beautiful, meticulous twists.  My heart goes out to those devoted Swedish knitters of yesteryear who produced this sturdy, solidly built fabric through twined knitting.  

Rory’s Stocking:  This was the first Christmas away from my boy.  It makes my eyes well up with tears just writing this.  Each mom knows there will be a time (and it will hurt) when we spend those first birthdays and Christmases away from each other.  In 22 years, we had always spent them together, but things change, boys grow up and move far away.  Across the globe?  I don’t remember signing up for that when we decided to have a baby!  While I mixed the colors and the stocking emerged, I remembered each Christmas that Rory would eagerly hop out of bed.  We are both morning people, so together, we would sneak out to the kitchen to see what Santa had left in Rory’s Christmas stocking, while dad and brother slept a little later.  This pattern is also a Beth Brown-Reinsel design.

Leaf Beret:  Just love it!  Love the pattern from Never Not Knitting – love the hand-dyed wool from Becoming Art.  The combination turned into an elegant, lightweight beret.  This piece was the result of a red-eye flight to Alaska.  Since I have an obsessive/compulsive gene, the question was, “Could I cast on in Medford, OR and cast off in Anchorage AK?”   Yes, I could – and I did!
Reindeer Baby Set:  Have you read the story, “The Mitten,” by Jan Brett?  This little set seems to have crawled right out of that woodland story.  The Reindeer design is from Colorwork Creations, by Susan Anderson-Freed, the tam is from Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Fair Isle tam class that I took at Stitches West, and the little tiny mittens are my own design.  I don’t think an actual baby hand could fit into them, but the fair entry defines a “baby set” as three items, so they’re getting microscopic mittens.  The caribou antler buttons were found while visiting Alaska.  This set is for my imaginary grandbaby, and after the fair it’s going straight into my “Granny Hope Chest.” 
That’s the behind-the-scenes story of my hand-knit entries for this year’s county fair.  It makes me smile to think that each piece at the fair (and each knitter who submitted it) has it’s own background, and it’s own “story,” a piece of someone’s heart that brought it from the single strand of yarn into an amazingly beautiful piece of clothing.
What piece of your heart did you decide to share at the fair?